These images today from Nové Mesto, the Czech round of the XC World Cup taking place this weekend show what looks like a new version of Shimano’s XTR groupset.
The crankset looks similar to previous XTR, but more refined and with what looks to be a direct mount single chainring. Maybe Shimano has finally given up on the 2x front chainring idea? There is also a distinct lack of a front chain guide on this particular bike, even though most narrow/wide chainrings do a good job with chain retention, most racers will now use a lightweight guide for belt-and-braces safety, maybe there is a new retention design that gives racers the confidence to drop the guide?
We can see the cassette has a wide range, but I can't count more than 11-sprockets on that cassette, but there could well be another small sprocket tucked behind the dropout of that Kross bike. The smaller chunk of the cassette looks like it could be made from one piece, and the larger three sprockets are pinned together.
Surely 12 speed is the only option if the big blue S wants to challenge the big red S for the huge trail and enduro bike market that SRAM has taken a stranglehold on over the last few years.
The derailleur also appears to have a clutch, but it is hard to tell whether or not there is an on/off lever that we are used to seeing on Shimano mechs.
What else can we deduce from the photo? The rear brake is blurry, but the brake hose is now connected on the inboard side of the caliper, whereas the old XTR was connected on the outside. There are no finned brake pads on these brakes, but I hope they are still an option to match the IceTec rotors.
And according to Nicolas Vouilloz's Instagram page, something new is ready to drop from Shimano tomorrow – 25.5.18